Los Rieleros del Norte

Cuesta Arribe

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When a new Rieleros del Norte CD arrived in the early 2000s, one didn't expect to hear a lot of songs that were innovative or groundbreaking. But one did expect the band to be consistent, and 2002's Cuesta Arriba is indeed a consistent, if predictable, outing. In Mexican circles, Rieleros del Norte command the sort of respect that alto saxophonist Phil Woods enjoys in the bebop world and Celia Cruz receives from salsa fans; they are among the best in their field, and Cuesta Arriba does nothing to harm their fine reputation. Throughout the album, Rieleros del Norte sound like a well-oiled norteño/Tex-Mex machine; in fact, they even use the word "machine" to describe themselves. Rieleros del Norte have been billing themselves as "la Maquina Musical Norteña Numero Uno," which translates to "the Number One Northern Musical Machine." But by calling themselves a machine, Rieleros aren't saying that their approach is mechanical or robotic; they're saying that they bring a level of professionalism to their work. Professionalism doesn't have to mean coldness; exuberant, polka-influenced tracks like "Incredíble," "Una Noche de Mi Vida," and "Porque Te Quiero" are full of warmth, charm, and humanity -- and like a lot of norteño/Tex-Mex acts, Rieleros del Norte wear their hearts on their sleeves. Occasionally, they slow down the tempo on Cuesta Arriba; "Capricho Maldito," for example, is the sort of melancholy norteño ballad that has a mariachi-like sentimentality even though it doesn't have the mariachi trumpet section. But more often than not, exuberance prevails on this CD, which falls short of essential but is still a pleasing addition to Rieleros' sizable catalog.

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